What I Learned From Running 13 Hours Up A Volcano


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At the end of 2019, I ran up a 5800-meter volcano called ‘El Misti’ in Southern Peru. It took me a total of 13 hours. I trained for months, running long distances and training for high-altitude.

I wrote about the whole story which you can read here. And you can watch the short film below.

But in this post, I wanted to reflect on what I learned from running up that volcano.

You Are So Much Tougher Than You Think

The truth is until you test your limits, you have no idea what you’re truly capable of. No matter what doubts or insecurities you might harbour, you never know your own strength until it’s been tested.

If you throw yourself into the deep end and do something you never thought possible, you might just surprise yourself. And the magical thing that happens each time you conquer something you previously thought impossible, is that your idea of what’s possible expands.

Have you ever noticed that each time someone breaks a world record or crosses a boundary that was previously thought impossible, that 10 other people break it soon after?

You realise that you have no idea what impossible means anymore. You realise that it’s only defined by how you think.

training up el misti volcano in Southern Peru

You Have No Idea What the Human Body is Capable Of

I learned many things from running up that volcano, but this one stuck with me the most.

Before I started on this journey of taking on crazy-sounding physical challenges, I never knew the true capacity of the human body. The first endurance challenge I did was a 4-hour run up the highest mountain in Australia. At the time I thought that was a pretty insane physical achievement.

Then I learned about Samantha Gash who ran across the entire country of India. I learned about Katharine and David Lowrie who ran about 1 marathon a day for 15 full months across the whole continent of South America. And my perspective of ‘crazy’ went to a whole new level.

It’s not to say that smaller achievements are not to be celebrated, but the capacity of the human body to endure such physical feats is mind-blowing. So, don’t underestimate it and keep pushing your limits.

It’s About Your State of Mind

If the human body is such a macho machine then why can’t everyone run across countries and scale mountains?

The difference between someone who can push their body to its true limits and someone who can’t is the way they’re able to withstand difficulty whilst maintaining a balanced mind.

You might ask why I didn’t say toughness or strength. Why did I say a balanced mind?

Because I think that true strength comes from a mind that is calm, centered and focused. A balanced mind is more able to cope with stress and endure pain for long periods of time.

Have you ever been in a fight with the crazy, overconfident guy? Is he really all that scary?

The guy that scares me the most is the one that doesn’t flinch when you shout at him. The one that takes a punch to the face, comes straight back up and looks you in the eye.

True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.

– Charles Xavier

Training Your Mind is Just as Important as Training Your Body

There is a whole universe inside your mind, a way of thinking, a perspective that only you possess. I don’t think science has gone far enough into understanding the contents of our minds, what it’s capable of and how to control it. So, you’re going to have to figure a lot of that out for yourself. And as I mentioned before, the only way to do that is by testing your limits.

But keep these 3 things in mind…

  • When you think you’ve reached your limit, you aren’t even close.
  • Try to only focus on taking the next step. Break the challenge into small, manageable parts.
  • Training your mind is like building a muscle, it doesn’t happen overnight. But it will get stronger with time.

You Can’t Do Everything Alone

Being a ‘lone wolf’ might sound cool, but sometimes we all need a little help and that’s okay.

When I was on one of the most difficult sections of my run up the volcano, I was terrified. I have a huge fear of heights and in this particular section, it was super steep. I felt like if I lost my footing, I would’ve just kept tumbling and fallen off the side into the abyss.

I tried not to look down and to focus on the run. But my feet started shaking. I couldn’t seem to conquer the fear.

Then these two, tough-looking, older and more experienced guys joined me. They taught me that if I bent down on my knees and looked at the steepness from a different angle than it wasn’t so intimidating.

They told me funny stories and encouraged me right to the end. One of the most important things I learned from running up that volcano, is that sometimes you can’t do it all on your own.

Also, shout out to you Billy, you were with me every step of the way, brother.

I learned to cope with steepness whilst running up El Misti volcano
This picture shows the steepness of that section

It’s Worth It

So, you’ve almost finished reading this article, and hopefully, I’ve made you think about taking on your own challenge. But you might be thinking, “This all sounds so gut-wrenchingly difficult. Why go through all this effort anyway?”

Because…when you have trained so hard for so long and you tried something that you honestly didn’t think you could do, and people told you it was stupid and you had a million doubts and set-backs along the way, but…you actually did the thing.

There is simply no other feeling like that…

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